Gerard Matthews is Twittering from the hearing on Sen. Sue Madison's request for a lottery study. The NAACP, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families and the Family Council have joined Madison in objecting to the game and state promotion of it.
We mentioned this hearing earlier today.
More from Gerard on the jump, including a press release from Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.
Steve Faris, the chairman of the joint State Agencies and Governmental Affairs committee reminded legislators after about one hour of debate and questioning that the issue at hand - whether or not to approve an interim study on repealing the state lottery - could not come up for a vote because there were not enough members present.
Madison repeated her argument that the lottery legislation simply permitted the legislature to go forward with setting up a lottery but did not mandate it. Although no action was taken by the committee Madison said she was pleased. Legislators seemed open to examining further some of the issues raised by Madison and others: that the lottery was not held as accountable to the legislature as it should be, that it amounts to a regressive tax on the poor and that advertising for the games has been a little much.
House Speaker Robbie Wills said after the meeting that the legislative oversight committee was already looking into some of those issues and would continue to do so with the assistance of the lottery commission itself.
Some legislators expressed strong disagreement with Madison's proposal. Rep. Rick Saunders said he was "tickled to death that higher education has this money available for scholarships." Madison told Saunders she hoped the scholarships would produce math majors who understand the odds of winning the lottery, which drew a laugh from those on-hand.
Madison closed for the proposal by saying that her ultimate goal would be to repeal the lottery completely, but she understood that "politics is compromise" and would be willing to simply make adjustments to the existing legislation where necessary. Rep. Andrea Lea said that she and others would be open to the same.
The meeting might not have accomplished much but it did send a message to the lottery commission and the legislative oversight committee that people are paying attention to the effects the games could have on the state.
State of Arkansas
Office of the Lieutenant Governor
Statement by the Office of Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter
On Proposal to Repeal the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery
December 2, 2009
Does anyone seriously believe we should betray the Arkansas voters’ trust and back out on our commitment to Arkansas students and families? After two years of public discussion and debate across the state, Arkansas voters spoke loudly and clearly in favor of the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery in November 2008, when they approved a constitutional amendment by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. State legislators then acted on the voters’ directive with their unanimous approval of the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery Act in March 2009. Scholarship Lottery ticket sales began September 28 and are currently on pace to produce even more than our conservative estimate of $100 million annually in new college scholarships for Arkansas citizens. The net proceeds of the Scholarship Lottery should provide $5,000-a-year scholarships for qualified recipients enrolled in 4-year colleges in Arkansas and $2,500-a-year scholarships for Arkansans enrolled in 2-year schools.